By now, we expect certain things from a Living Colour album: arty, if bludgeoning, speed metal, hyperspace guitar blasts and solos from Vernon Reid, exhortative lyrics about social ills and barriers delivered with a roaring bellow by lead singer Corey Glover. But where those elements once had their charm and power — derived in part from the normally irrelevant fact that the members of Living Colour are black — Stain, the group’s third album, is mostly belabored and strident.
We should have heard it coming: The group’s last album, Time’s Up, was a tangled knot of overarranged hardcore and self-righteous rhetoric that dragged the group down with it. This time around, the band sounds even more burdened. In ”Postman,” Glover compares himself with Christ without a noticeable trace of humor, while other songs lash out at obvious targets like self-serving charity givers, parasites, and ”that stupid TV.”
The music is similarly bellicose: A few robust songs emerge from the murk (the hooky ”Never Satisfied,” the antiprejudice ”Wall,” and the spacey, almost free-form ”Nothingness”), but most of the record is a suffocating avalanche of clubfooted riffing that even Metallica has left behind. (The cover itself — depicting a woman, her shaved head encased in a spiked steel cage — is the type of dunderheaded image that’s standard issue for bad metal albums.) Sure, the world is a screwed-up place filled with intolerant morons, but what happened to the lively, spunky, and essentially good-humored band of Living Colour’s debut, Vivid? Stain doesn’t flow; it clots. C-